Understanding the Difference Between Self-Monitoring, Self-Isolation, Isolation and Social Distancing

When it comes to COVID-19, many of us have questions about the difference between social distancing, self-monitoring, self-isolation and isolation. 

Understanding what each of these terms means can help you take action to reduce the spread of the virus.

Social distancing

Social distancing is one of the most effective ways for everyone to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak. This means making changes in your everyday routine to minimize close physical contact with others, including:

  • avoiding non-essential gatherings, such as family dinners and parties or playdates with friends
  • avoiding common physical greetings such as handshakes
  • keeping a distance of two metres from other people
  • limiting physical contact with people at higher risk, such as older adults and those with health conditions

Practice social distancing by:

  • greeting people with a wave instead of a handshake
  • using technology to keep in touch with friends and family
  • staying home as much as possible, including for meals and entertainment


If you don’t have symptoms but may have been exposed to COVID-19, you should self-monitor. This means monitoring yourself for 14 days for one or more of the symptoms, such as fever, coughing or difficulty breathing. Practise social distancing, by avoiding non-essential gatherings, staying at home as much as possible, and keeping a two-metre distance from others whenever possible.

If you develop symptoms, isolate yourself from others immediately and contact your local public health authority as soon as possible.


If you have possible exposure to COVID-19 because of travel outside Canada or being in close contact with a person diagnosed or tested for the disease, you must self-isolate, even if you have no symptoms.

This means staying home and self-monitoring for symptoms, even if mild, for 14 days. You must also avoid contact with other people to help prevent the spread of disease in your home and community. You may use food delivery services and go for a walk to enjoy some fresh air, just ensure to maintain a distance of two metres from those around you.

You need to self-isolate if you have travelled outside Canada within the last 14 days or your local public health authority has identified you as a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or being tested for the illness.

If you develop symptoms, even mild ones, stay home, isolate yourself, avoid other people and contact your local public health authority as soon as possible.


If you have symptoms—even if mild—that are associated with COVID-19, have been diagnosed with it or are awaiting test results, you must isolate yourself. This means avoiding contact with others and staying home until your local public health authority says you are no longer at risk of spreading the virus.

If your symptoms get worse, immediately contact your health-care provider or your local public health authority and follow their instructions.

If you suspect you might have COVID-19, please use the Government of Canada’s self-assessment tool to help you determine if you should be tested. Find more information by calling 1-833-784-4397 or at canada.ca/coronavirus.

(Source: NewsCanada)